“It was called the fountain of youth project, and the ambition was to leverage the then recently decoded human genome and learn how to use the genetic sequencing in an effort to reprogram cellular structure.
“His project proposal was to use the work in genetics and DNA as instructional blueprints of each human organ from growth through maturation to then alter the physiological behavior of a matured individual. He postulated that the human body tissue contained flaws within the genetic sequencing that, over time, either forgets how to regenerate replacement tissue or mutates into something adversarial to the host human. In other words, cancer.
“The doctor further suggested that if we could understand the applied maturation of the sequencing of the human genome, then we could biologically reprogram the tissue at the genetic level to its optimum matured state and eliminate tissue degeneration. He received funding because he convinced the panel he could add a process to make human tissue at the cellular level through genetic manipulation perform as intended on a continual or as needed basis at a fixed age.”
Otto filled in the next sentence as he postulated, “And thus extend the human life span because organs and life tissue would no longer mutate or lose the ability to regenerate themselves. How interesting! But I thought the human genome project was declared finished in April 2003 by an international consortium?”
Eric nodded and sighed a little before he continued. “Correct, but that was just the mapping. He was actually using some of that early research, along with his own, to move his project along faster. It looked very promising, and there was an awful lot of hope staked on his project’s outcome. Then things started to slip as did the defined milestones. Progress seemed to be increasingly elusive as time wore on.
“The first big breakthrough came about halfway through the project lifecycle, when we were shown some proof positive data points that some hog gene resequencing had in fact stopped cold a cancer that had been introduced into the animal. Dr. Pekoni was over the top in his presentation. Looking back on it, I can see we were intoxicated with this one test subject. The agency kept the funding in place, then things started to unwind.
“Briefings and even progress reports started being rescheduled or postponed. We had trouble even getting the doctor on the phone. Calls were never returned, and numbers finally ceased working.”
Otto furrowed his brow almost puzzled and then stated, “I believe I remember some of this from the sensationalist side but not what happened next. I seem to recall some controversy around the project and then nothing. So what happened?”
Eric replied, “We had reason to believe that he started to experiment on humans, based on his earliest successes with animals containing similar DNA pairs to humans. Apparently word got out and anyone dying of cancer volunteered for the possible chance it would work for them. Dr. Pekoni simply couldn’t refuse the offers to experiment on live humans for the sake of moving his project along.
“We started getting reports of his activities from other agencies and inquiries from a few folks who were quite uncomfortable with government funding of unsanctioned human testing. One group likened this experimentation to the Nazi S.S. doctors’ work at German concentration camps of World War II. To state it plainly, these were unsanctioned human trials with none of the clinical safeguards or even oversight in place.”
Otto’s eyebrows arched up in alarm as he suggested, “Eric, this information is a little too close to home for me, with my family having run from the Nazis after my native country of Poland was overrun in 1939. But please continue, sir.”
Eric nodded and explained, “It might have been water under the bridge, if that was as far as it had gone. Unfortunately his experiments had an unfortunate side effect on the volunteers. Everyone, without exception, developed a blood disorder from his genetic reprogramming that necessitated blood transfusions every thirty days. A couple of our internal operations analysts cynically rebranded the program as the virtually amplified mathematical processing of integers recursively and exponentially or the VAMPIRE project.
“With the private sector coming into the picture and the unwanted publicity of experimenting on human beings, we pulled the plug on the VAMPIRE project, which stopped Dr. Pekoni’s project cold.”
Otto then asked, “That isn’t the entire story, is it, Eric?”
Eric clucked his tongue and replied, “Again, correct, Otto. We have reason to believe one of the test subjects was in fact Dr. Pekoni himself. So when he vanished he took all of his research, and I mean all of his research, with him. It was postulated he was looking for something to help counteract the blood disorder because he too had it. Intelligence suggests that he missed some of the necessary genome sequencing for his project that he had started before the main genome sequencing project was definitively completed.
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